30 Best Tips for Sewing Knits with Serger & Sewing Machine!

 

Serger Pepper - Sewing Knits - Interlock - Jersey

I often hear sewists that don’t want to sew knits, because they don’t have a serger or because they say they’re not able to manage them….

You know what? You don’t have to be scared from knits, because, knowing the right tips, it’s easy to work with them and achieve professional results. Today I’m sharing with you some of my best ones, collected during years of

Sewing Knits!

General tips and info

  1. Knit garments don’t need to fit exactly your measurements like when sewing woven, you need to add darts to get the right shape. Knit hugs you softly also if measurements aren’t perfect 😉
  2. Always pre-wash (so pre-shrink) knits, leave them dry flat (not hanging) and leave them rest flat for at least a day, when dried, to allow them keep their shape.Serger Pepper - Sewing Knits - Interlock - Jersey
  3. Your pattern asks for spandex and you’ve found knit with Lycra content… and now? What’s the difference between Lycra and spandex? Well, Lycra is Spandex (made by DuPont), while spandex is the no-brand version!Serger Pepper - Sewing Knits - Interlock - Jersey
  4. Never stretch knits while pinning!
  5. While pinning with regular pins, try to keep them inside seam allowances to avoid opening unwanted holes in your garment! Sometimes, you won’t notice damaged fabric until after washing it one (or more) time(s): better stay on safe side, when sewing a spandex knit you don’t know the behavior.Serger Pepper - Sewing Knits - Interlock - Jersey
  6. Better use patternweights instead of pins (or use ballpoint needles, if you find them); you can use your cat’s canned food, or (washed) rocks, iron chunks (I live with a plumber LOL)…Serger Pepper - Sewing Knits - Interlock - Jersey
  7. If with wovens you usually clip your notches, in knits better mark them outside the (usually) tiny seam allowances, cutting sort of triangles, with vertex corresponding to notch: you’ll be sure your knit won’t fall apart in correspondence of notches while you’ll be able to perfectly match marks (you can also snip shorter notches, but then you’ll need a magnifier to see them!)Serger Pepper - Sewing Knits - Interlock - Jersey
  8. Some kind of jersey (t-shirt fabric), have edges that tend to curl, some times heavily: use some starchy spray and press to fix it! Will be easier to work with seam allowances 🙂
  9. Serger Pepper - Sewing Knits - Interlock - JerseyA nice press on seams and hems (with a gentle touch of steam) will lay them nice and flat, getting rid of all that wonkyness! Only remember: do not slide your iron, or you’ll distort your garment!
  10. You can leave seams (and hems) as they are, unfinished: knits do not ravel!
  11. Always cut your pattern on fabrics laying them in order to have the stretchiest direction (usually crosswise, but it doesn’t really matter!) around the body, to hug it!
  12. Great help while sewing (but also when cutting, if really slippery) thin knits is using tissue paper, oven paper (or, if those are missing, also some toilet paper can do the job… this one is never missing!).Serger Pepper - Sewing Knits - Interlock - Jersey - Best TipsSandwich your fabric between paper’s layers (I use the one that comes in swimwear packages: I work in a swimming pool and this paper would end directly in paper recycling bin… so I reuse it before using it to light my fireplace – too much frugal, I know!)Serger Pepper - Sewing Knits - Interlock - Jersey - Best TipsAnd sew! They’ll prevent stretching fabric too much, acting as stabilizer!Serger Pepper - Sewing Knits - Interlock - Jersey - Best Tips
  13. Wondering how to know stretch percentage of your knit (how much your fabric stretches)? Check this Elegance and Elephant’s great photo tutorial!Serger Pepper - Sewing Knits - Interlock - Jersey - Best Tips
  14. Staytape (like this one Dritz 791 1/2-Inch by 10-Yard Stay Tape– affiliate link) on seams that don’t need to stretch, like shoulders or side seams (you can also handmade it, using a strip of the same knit on its not-stretchy direction, saying it’s not a 4 ways stretch!): you can use a strip of organza, a selvedge, clear or regular elastic, scraps of interfacing, depending on the kind of knit you’re sewing on.
  15. A nice gadget to have (still missing ordered Wednesday, can’t wait the postman to deliver it!!) is the walking foot, that helps feeding the top layer of fabric under the needle, keeping layers together! Will write soon about it!

Needles

  1. Ballpoint needles! Always start an important project with a fresh one, to be sure it’s not damaged. You’ll find jersey needles and stretch needles: go for these last ones, when you have a spandex content, to be sure you’re not breaking anything: they have a rounded point and a specially designed eye and a deeper scarf to prevent skipped stitches allowing to form a longer thread loop to be nearly sure your hook’s sewing machine will catch it (as the manufacturer says!)Serger Pepper - Sewing Knits - Interlock - Jersey - Best Tips
  2. I am not a big fan of twin needles but, if you find the right settings on your sewing machine, they allow you to achieve a Pro-result, faking a Coverlock stitch. You can check here Deby’s video about her tips on using a twin needle!Serger Pepper - Sewing Knits - Interlock - Jersey - Best Tips
  3. One more tip when using twin needles on thin knits, is to stabilize your fabric fusing some lightweight or knit interfacing (or even only spray starch!), to add some stiff. You’ll find that sewing on a stabilized knit will be easier and you’ll have no more skipped stitches!Serger Pepper - Sewing Knits - Interlock - Jersey - Best Tips

Threads:

  1. Stay away from cotton! In this case, natural isn’t better: I’d suggest you choose a polyester thread, because of the slight amount of stretch it has (while cotton thread will always break when pulled!)
  2. Use wooly nylon as bobbin thread if you need to sew hems and necklines (where you need a lot of stretch!); better wound it by hand, like you do with elastic thread, to preserve its natural stretch!Serger Pepper - Sewing Knits - Interlock - Jersey - Best Tips

Stitches and sewing machine settings:

  1. Stretch stitches comes in a wide variety, depending on your sewing machine model. Check your manual to see which ones your machine has. Here are the one I use:

1= Zig-zag (better if kept narrow); 2= 3 step zig-zag; 10= overlock stitch;

11= honeycomb; 12= triple straight & triple zig-zag.Serger Pepper - Sewing Knits - Interlock - Jersey - Best Tips

  1. Always test on scraps how much elastic are your stitches, stretching the knit on its stretchiest direction, and see if the seam has the same stretch of your fabric. Better lose some time before you even start sewing on your garment, playing with tensions and length/width than wearing it once and hear that popping seams break 😉Serger Pepper - Sewing Knits - Interlock - Jersey - Best Tips
  2. If you want to keep track of your settings, practice with scraps and stitches width and length, marking settings directly on scraps (creating then stitch samples you can collect in a sewing diary)
  3. Usually, when sewing knits less tension is better!Serger Pepper - Sewing Knits - Interlock - Jersey - Best Tips
  4. Eventually, if sewing thin knits, stick a little strip of tape just over your needle throat, to reduce its width (they also sells straight stitch needle plates, with a tiny hole, just remember to change it anytime you’re sewing a zig-zag stitch or anything wider than a straight stitch, or you’ll damage your needle and your machine’s timing).Serger Pepper - Sewing Knits - Interlock - Jersey - Best Tips
  5. Start 1/2″ inside the seam to avoid your machine eating your fabric under the needle plate, backstitch, restart sewing.
  6. Never-ever pull knits while sewing to avoid curled seams (unless you’re sewing them to an elastic or your pattern instructions ask you doing that): it’s ok keeping it slightly stretched, but not too much: practice will help you mastering the exact amount of strength to apply!

Serger Tips:

  1. If using a serger, you can really have the most from sewing knits! I use a 4-threads stitch for most of your sewing, it’s the best in my opinion!
  2. You can use a 3-thread stitch (with the loopers and one only needle) when only finishing seam allowances on knits, but I find it too weak for construction seams. There’s a 3-threads option using two needles and only the lower looper thread with tension = 0 in my manual, it’s called “super stretch stitch“… have you ever tried it? Other serger stitches you can use with fun, are the rolled hem, the narrow hem, the picot stitch, the flatlock seam (used in sportswear and as decorative stitch). I’d like to write more about those stitches, what do you think?
  3. You can use with profit a wooly nylon on your loopers, when sewing swimwear or necklines or hems (where you need the seam to be really stretch!). Just remember it costs much more than regular thread and loopers are thread-eaters, so use it wisely!

So, they were my 30 Best Tips for sewing with knits.

Do you want more?

Check my Pinterest Board all for knits and, if you have some tips to share, ask me to add you as a contributor to that board, I’ll be more than pleased to have you pinning with me!

 

Check also the following YouTube channels on topic:

ModKid  –  Fashion Sewing Blog YouTube Channel

Angela Kane youTube Channel  –  Professor Pincushion

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About the Author:

Hi there! I love sewing, creating my own patterns and refashioning pre-loved clothes... If you love the same things, why not be friends? See you on Pinterest http://Pinterest.com/MammaNene

35 Comments

  1. Cher February 22, 2014 at 16:57 - Reply

    Very cool tips! I’ve used stabilizer in the hems – usually waters soluble – since my machine doesn’t seem to like certain knits. I just bought a coverstitch machine and LOVE it! Thanks for sharing!

    • Mamma Nene February 23, 2014 at 13:40 - Reply

      Water soluble stabilizer… I’ve heard of it, but I’m trying not to buy more gadgets if I have something I can use instead!
      PS Can you hear my envy for a coverstitch machine???

  2. cucicucicoo February 22, 2014 at 17:43 - Reply

    Wow, Irene, excellent post and great tips! This will be very useful! 🙂 Lisa

  3. cucicucicoo February 22, 2014 at 17:51 - Reply

    Irene, aiutami con le traduzioni! Ora ho guardato il video di Deby. Come si chiama quel “knit stay tape” in Italiano? Lo voglio!! E anche wooly nylon thread… dove lo trovi? Non mi sembra di averlo mai visto anche se ne ho sentito parlare in Inglese.

    • Mamma Nene February 23, 2014 at 13:39 - Reply

      Allora… come si chiami in italiano sfugge anche a me… io in genere mi rivolgo a ebay.co.uk per questo genere di cose… oppure a siti inglesi! Ti lascio un paio di link: http://ow.ly/tU7ai http://ow.ly/tU7ew 😉

    • Mamma Nene February 23, 2014 at 13:43 - Reply

      Un’altra cosa… io in genere taglio una striscia in bias di flieselina leggera, oppure una striscia di fliselina elasticizzata, in maglina… così non devo comprare il rotolino (tanto, per le volte che lo uso… e poi costa un bel po’ di più del taglio grosso e in genere tengo gli scarti delle lavorazioni più grosse ;))

  4. clara February 22, 2014 at 17:56 - Reply

    Meraviglia!!! Grazie grazie grazie!
    Sono adesso più motivata ad imparare!

    • Mamma Nene February 23, 2014 at 13:43 - Reply

      Prego cara… non vedo l’ora di vedere le tue creazioni di maglina <3

  5. Parnuuna February 22, 2014 at 22:46 - Reply

    You are too awesome!! 🙂 thank you for the tips! <3

    • Mamma Nene February 23, 2014 at 13:44 - Reply

      You’re welcome, Parnuuna… I bet you already know them all… or not?

  6. Diane Cullum February 24, 2014 at 06:23 - Reply

    Even after all of my years of sewing, you have given me some new tips! I love my serger for knits too and especially love my walking foot for almost everything! You will like yours too, I’m sure.

    • Mamma Nene February 24, 2014 at 08:57 - Reply

      So happy to hear that, Diane! Can’t wait my walking foot to come, I feel like a kid at Xmas night LOL

  7. Emily February 24, 2014 at 18:45 - Reply

    Came over from your link up on makeit-loveit! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Salina February 25, 2014 at 16:24 - Reply

    Thank you for so many great tips! I almost always sew with knits (over wovens) and have had a number of disasters. I’ll have less of them now having read this post.

    • Mamma Nene February 25, 2014 at 17:41 - Reply

      Glad to help you, Salina!
      In your experience, is there a trick not listed here you’d like to share with me and my readers?

  9. Federica February 27, 2014 at 13:07 - Reply

    eccolo li ben fotografato il mio bell’ago doppio ora rotto 🙁
    sigh sob 😛

    • Mamma Nene February 27, 2014 at 14:44 - Reply

      🙂
      Conosco bene la sensazione! Non ti resta altro che comprarne… altri due (così la prossima volta hai il cambio pronto … perchè si rompono davvero in fretta!!!)

  10. […] I’m a beginner on serging (I have a serger from almost 6 months now, and being a working mum I can’t sew/serge how much I would like to do!), but I’ve already learnt some (I hope) good tip that I want to share (after the threading tutorial I’ve seen a lot of you love!) Maybe you’re more a sewing machine type… check my Top 15 Beginner’s Sewing Tips or my 30 Best Sewing with Knits Tips!  […]

  11. […] Check TitiCrafty.com later today: I have a Cute PJ Refashioned from 2 T-shirts Photo Tutorial ready to share – the perfect project for putting in practice last week’s Sewing Knits Tips! […]

  12. […] need to use a ballpoint needle and, if you like, check some more tips (my 30 best ones) in one of my latest posts about this topic! If you have T-shirts similar to the ones I used, or you’re a beginner in refashions, […]

  13. […] you need to be able to choose the right fabric for each project, depending on fiber content, knit/woven, elastic content, weight and dimension of […]

  14. […] me suggestions and tips for sewing knits, so I’ve written a post about it, collecting my 30 best tips… if you feel like you need a boost to convince you sewing knits with confidence, read it […]

  15. Arina May 31, 2014 at 08:27 - Reply

    Thank you SO much for the tips!
    In my case it was toilet paper ( nothing really worked – I bought knitted fabric with some metallic like print)…..
    Loved it! It was easy and nice sewing experience !
    THANK YOU!!!!!!!

  16. […] or some ruffles, they could have looked Cool, not … Extended!) Let me add here a couple of general tips for sewing knits (I know some sewists?are scared from knits… no need at all!): – a simple sewing machine […]

  17. […] me add here a couple of general tips for sewing knits (I know some sewists are scared from knits… no need at all!): – a simple sewing machine is […]

  18. […] Pre-wash: usually lace comes heavily glued: this is done in factories to make it up and look good. Always better pre-wash it (and, maybe, let it soak in water for a while, before you rinse it) to get rid of all those chemicals…and make it softer! If you feel like it’s hard to keep it in place while sewing, you can spray starch it like you would do if you were sewing rebel knits. […]

  19. Pam @Threading My Way September 20, 2014 at 13:14 - Reply

    Who would have thought of using toilet paper instead of tissue… LOL. Much cheaper than tissue paper. Brilliant!!!

    • Mamma Nene September 20, 2014 at 16:26 - Reply

      … and chanches are you always have it at home 😉

  20. […] Beschreibungen und weitere Tipps gibt es zum Beispiel auf dem Blog von Segger Pepper. Dort gibt Irene ihr Erfahrungen und Empfehlungen zur Verarbeitung von Strickware wieder […]

  21. Kristen August 20, 2015 at 17:04 - Reply

    Thanks for the tips, I hope you’re still checking on new comments. I have a question about necklines.

    I’m working on a jersey knit tunic and pre-serged most edges, interfaced the neckline, understitched and starched and pressed the neckline on a ham. The neckline, no matter what I do, rolls forward. Is there a way to fix this? I’m afraid if I do a bias tape, it will add more weight to the lightweight jersey and cause it to roll forward moreso. I’m wondering if I should’ve skipped adding the interfacing in the first place? I can’t seem to find any guidelines about interfacing knits of different weights.

    Any experience/help is appreciated. (The sewing was a breeze up until the neckline fiasco 😉 )

  22. julia February 20, 2016 at 19:06 - Reply

    Thanks for the tips & advised.
    saya sekeluarga ambil yg haq sahaja.Tiada yg lain.Dulu kini dan selamanya..

  23. Hintergrund: | July 4, 2016 at 16:43 - Reply

    […] Beschreibungen und weitere Tipps gibt es zum Beispiel auf dem Blog von Segger Pepper. Dort gibt Irene ihr Erfahrungen und Empfehlungen zur Verarbeitung von Strickware wieder […]

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